By Kyle Inman
After a going 21-15 in conference play, the Northeastern Junior College baseball team earned the No. 3 seed in the Region IX postseason baseball tournament.
The Plainsmen will start the playoffs on Thursday in Scottsbluff, Neb., with a matchup against No. 2 Trinidad State, the three-time defending conference champions. Despite the program success, Northeastern went 4-2 against Trinidad during the regular season. JT Patterson, Dakota Popham, and Conner McCafferty have had success at the plate against Trinidad in those games with each hitting home runs.
"We have to try and dethrone them," coach Bryan Shepherd said of his first round opponent. "We match up pretty well against them and we've had good games with them all year."
The tournament is comprised of the top four teams from the conference, with Western Nebraska Community College earning the top seed and the right to host. WNCC will face off against No. 4 McCook Community College in its first game. The tournament is a double-elimination format with the winner extending its season with a trip to Arizona to play in the district championships.
"Everything is on the line now because it's a different animal. If you lose you go home and your season is done," Shepherd said. "We are trying to go in with a bit of a relaxed mindset; we just have to make sure we go out there offensively and put pressure on the other teams."
"If we have to improve on anything over the last weekend, we are going to have to swing the bats better," Shepherd said. "I feel like our pitching is giving us a chance to win every time we take the field now."
The Plainsmen finished the regular season with a 30-25 record. Spenser Dexter led the pitching unit with five wins on the season. Popham batted .394 with six home runs while Patterson hit .353 led the team with 11 homers. Luke Mondt hit .353 with 25 runs batted in while Easton Adler hit .382 and McCafferty hit .315 with 30 RBI.
"Right now we are just getting ready to play good in all three aspects. Try to hit, pitch and play good defense," Shepherd said. "We go into it with one game at a time, just like we did toward the end of the season."
Kyle Inman: 970-526-9298, firstname.lastname@example.org